Before Wednesday’s game, I had the chance to spend about ten minutes with Gerrit Cole outside of the visiting clubhouse at Waterfront Park. Cole, the first overall pick of the 2011 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, had been taken in the first round by the Yankees three seasons earlier, but instead chose to go to UCLA.
Mike Ashmore: Let’s talk about getting drafted by the Yankees in 2008. How difficult of a position did that put you in, knowing that you weren’t going to sign no matter who selected you?
Gerrit Cole: “It was interesting. We sat down as a family together and went through the decision in the summer. We just let the Yankees know what we were doing.”
Ashmore: Was it hard, especially at that age, to turn down whatever offers they were potential going to make?
Cole: “Yeah. But at the same time, it was my decision.”
Ashmore: And you grew up as a Yankees fan…did that make it even more difficult?
Ashmore: OK. Let’s talk about your experience at UCLA then…did you get what you wanted out of it?
Cole: “Yeah. Not a national championship, but we got close. I left that program in a better spot, and was able to contribute quite a bit.”
Ashmore: What were some of the more fun things you got to do while you were there?
Cole: “School, school’s fun. Basketball games, football games, volleyball, water polo, the whole thing.”
Ashmore: Getting drafted last year first overall, what was that experience like for you?
Cole: “It was incredible. People were talking about it before it happened, but it doesn’t really sink in until you actually get picked.”
Ashmore: Was it any less of a big deal considering you’d already been drafted in the first round a few years earlier? Not too many guys can say they got picked in the first round twice…
Cole: “Not too many guys can say they got picked first, either.”
Ashmore: What has the attention been like so far on you. I’d have to imagine that there’s been a lot more eyes on you and a lot more media requests and so on being the first overall pick…
Cole: “Yeah, for sure. It varies a little bit from city to city. But it’s something I’m going to have to get used to, I guess.”
Ashmore: You got a pretty impressive bonus ($8 million) as well…what’s it like getting that kind of money thrown at you at such a young age?
Cole: “It’s nice (laughs). If you’re a smart about it, it’ll set you up (for life). I only have to go back to school for one year, so it’ll be good to have my education and some money too.”
Ashmore: Do you want to go back?
Cole: “Yeah. When I was at school, it was about school. And now that I’m in pro ball, it’s about pro ball.”
Ashmore: What were you majoring in?
Cole: “Political science.”
Ashmore: What was it about that that interested you?
Cole: “It was kind of somewhere inbetween economics and history. History was pretty easy and economics was a little too hard for me. Especially with baseball, it was a little too time-consuming. It was somewhere in the middle.”
Ashmore: Could you kind of evaluate yourself as a pitcher and give me a little self-scouting report?
Cole: “Four-pitch mix. Obviously, the fastball I throw pretty hard. As a result, I strike a lot of guys out. I’m just real aggressive on the mound and I’m just trying to give my team the best chance to win.”
Ashmore: Do you remember the first time you hit 100 MPH?
Cole: “Yeah. (I was) 17. I hit 101 when I was 17 in my last game.”
Ashmore: What was the reaction to that?
Cole: “There was a lot of talking going on after the game (laughs). There was probably about 50 scouts there, and they all got it. After that inning, there was a lot of people running over to the dugout and everything. It was kind of crazy.”
Ashmore: How have you progressed this season?
Cole: “I’m just getting acclimated to professional ball. I started to getting rolling down at A-Ball, and then got here. I’ve had some good starts and got rewarded and had some bad starts and got punished. It’s just about building off of every start. You can’t control a lot of things in this game, so you’ve control what you can.”
Ashmore: I was at your start in Reading, and your outing last night went a lot better than that one did. Was there any sort of difference between those two starts that you can look at?
Cole: “I think using the fastball. I had better stuff in Reading than I did last night. It’s all about using it. In Reading, hits fell, little ground balls. Last night, they were hit right to guys, and in Reading they didn’t go to anybody. They went right through holes. That’s the kind of stuff where you’ve kind of got to keep your head down and keep going. I definitely used the fastball a little different last night than I did in Reading.”
Ashmore: What was the Futures Game like?
Cole: “It was a ton of fun. It was a lot more fun than I expected. They kind of ship you and ship you out real quick, and that’s kind of a bummer. But for the most part, it was awesome.”
Ashmore: I’m sure a lot of people were excited to see you there, but I’d be curious to know who impressed you…
Cole: “(Shoot), everybody. Everybody was good. There was a couple guys on the World team that were really good, their starting pitcher was pretty impressive. Our whole staff was pretty good. Just the defense, too. You expect to see 100 miles per hour and you expect to see a lot of home runs, but freaking Machado is ridiculous. Gose was making sick plays. There’s no holes anywhere in the infield. Olt is like a Gold Glove-caliber guy at first base. Arenado at third base is one of the most solid guys in the minor leagues. There’s some plays that go unnoticed, I think. That was cool to see that.”
Ashmore: Whether it be levels or stuff or anything, are you progressing the way you’d like to be?
Cole: “My goal is just go from start to start and be able to handle the fact that’s the only thing I’m able to control. The progression and all that stuff, you’d have to ask those guys.”
Ashmore: Hard not to start thinking about the big leagues?
Cole: “What’s nice is that we’re winning, so we get to watch a lot. But, I don’t really think about it too much. My focus has got to be here, you can’t do anything worthwhile if your mind is somewhere else.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com